When we talk about scheduling in the skilled trades industry, we're actually talking about several types of schedules.
Job or project scheduling
When you're looking into scheduling options, it's worth considering how it handles each of these elements.
A reliable system of worker scheduling is going to need to incorporate keeping track of which workers have which skill sets, their availability, and their proximity to the job sites.
In many skilled trades companies, this sort of information is tracked semi-informally by office staff, maybe with a list somewhere of people's schedules for availability. Obviously, this system can work "well enough", but it's hard to get reliable results, and it leaves valuable institutional knowledge (that's important to your business) with limited (if any) documentation.
If your scheduling system has a problem handling scheduling workers, you're going to have a hard time responding to new job orders; you're not going to easily get a good picture of which workers, or how many, are available (and how reliably). It's also going to be a challenge for your employees, who are going to have to check in regularly to ensure their information is accurate; recurring scheduling conflicts cause upheavals for your workers, harming your relationship with them.
An excellent scheduling system means that your office staff can answer new work order requests immediately and accurately, and that your workers can rely on your office staff. Availability and reliability like that is critical to both your customers and your employees!
Project scheduling, in the sense that were going to discuss it today, refers to skilled trade tasks with predictable frequency, that you can (and should) be able to plan out ahead of time, and helps ensure that all the resources (skills, tools, supplies, parts) your people are going to need are available before they're needed.
A failure in planning for these types of tasks ahead of time leads to dissatisfaction among some of your most valuable and recurring clients. Clients will notice of your people need multiple visits to the site, don't bring the tools that are going to be required, or need to order supplies they should have anticipated needing.
An excellent scheduling system helps co-ordinate resources between projects. This can mean arranging multiple preventative maintenance calls at the same site to take place on the same day, or co-ordinating them across several sites to fit your workers schedules, alongside making sure you have all the supplies and parts required before they're needed by your customers.
If worker scheduling is where your people are, and project scheduling says when they're going to be there, then task scheduling is what they do while they're there.
Without a suitable task list, the tasks might not be completed to your customer's satisfaction. Your employees can't insure they bring all the supplies and equipment they need to complete the work without a full task list. And an incomplete or inaccurate task list might not include your clients specific preferences, reducing their satisfaction with your company's work.
A detailed task list makes it easier for your skilled workers to get their work done promptly, saving you time and money. It helps your employees make sure the job is completed correctly, preventing return visits. And it can make sure the task is completed to your customer's specifications, helping keep your customers happy with your company's work.
As we've discussed here, the difference between a poor, or even just passable, scheduling system, and an extraordinary one, can be a wide gulf. Ensuring your system is the best it can be is important to the success of your business, and neglecting your scheduling system courts disaster.
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